Review: Mad Men – Christmas Comes But Once a Year

Christmas hits SCDP and because their Lucky Strike client, Lee Garner Jr., comes to the office, what was once supposed to be a very conservative and small Christmas gathering turns into a sexy soiree. Weirdo kid Glen (from season 1, with the creepy Glen-Betty storyline) begins a childish, but not childish, flirtation with Sally. Peggy contemplates moving forward, physically, with Mark, who believes she is a virgin.

“Man your battle stations!”

Gotta love seeing Christmas in the mid-60s. Especially with these characters. Because when an impromptu conga line forms in the new offices of SCDP, we remember why we love this show. Yes, it’s silly, but everyone is aware that it’s silly. It sort of reminded me of last season’s third episode with Roger’s yard party where we saw Pete and Trudy cut a rug, Roger doing embarrassing black-face, and in a different scene we see Joan rock the accordion. Every once in awhile, the writers like to let these characters (and actors) loose from the drama that surrounds them to bask in a scene or two of unbridaled fun, and I give them credit for that.

From top to bottom this was a solid episode. It’s still been very Don-heavy this season, and we’ve really yet to hear from either Pete Campbell or Joan in any of these storylines, but we will. The scene with Don and his assistant Allison at the beginning was touching. I loved her reaction to reading Sally’s letter-to-Santa, even with the knowledge that she was just playfully writing to her father. It takes a character like Allison, wide-eyed and still-non-cynical, to remind us that if these characters stopped caring so much about themselves and their collective machismo, they could still be happy. With that being said, I doubt we’ll see the same Allison after she received her “bonus” by episode’s end.

The Don-Allison storyline seems to be indicative of what we’re looking at this season. In episode 1, we saw Don lose his cool with a client, get slapped by a hooker and in episode 2 we see him have sex with his assistant and give her a demeaning cash “eff you” bonus. Don usually never even likes his assistants. We’re starting to slowly see Don Draper come apart. Maybe his marriage meant more to him then we were lead to believe. In season 1, Don almost absconded with Ms. Menken and abandoned his family. In season 2, he nearly did the same by retreating to the West Coast. In season 3, his wife finally kicked him out. And so far in season 4, Don seems to be reeling from the losses of his family and stable work environment. With Don being partner at SCDP, he’s sort of become the enemy to the office, as evidenced by two straight episodes of new creative guy, Joey, making passive aggressive comments at Don’s expense. Don used to have control over his image, because Don Draper was so consciously and perfectly constructed by Dick Whitman. But now things are spiraling out of his control, and before this is over we’ll see Don truly hit rock bottom.

I won’t touch on Don’s neighbor, Phoebe (Nora Zehetner), because I bet we’ll be seeing her again, or even Freddy “Piss-Pants” Rumson’s return. Peggy’s relationship with Mark is a bit boring so far and we’ll be able to discuss that when something more entertaining happens with them…

SO LET’S TALK ABOUT GLEN! What the fedge? Who is this kid? He sorta looks like he should’ve been a character in The Sandlot, but he talks like Michael friggin’ Douglas. I remember the 10 yr. old Glen trying-to-woo-Betty storyline from season 1 and thinking “I’m okay with never seeing this kid again”–And because I felt that way, the writers knew we needed to see him again. The character himself is a wildcard, and I think only serves to further develop Sally as a character, but my God is he interesting. There’s something mysterious and crazy about Glen, and if this infatuation with Sally becomes deeper (which it seems like it will), I see a whole host of drama, as well as the potential for death, coming.

Finally, I wanted to touch on just how much I enjoy Kiernan Shipka’s evolution as Sally. When the show first started, Sally and Bobby were largely peripheral characters, serving to show that Don’s actions don’t just affect his wife but also his kids. And now, Sally (in particular) has become one of the main characters in Mad Men. I don’t mind this. Shipka is very watchable and we’re dealing with a group of writers that know how to write for children. Before it’s all said and done, I don’t know how much we’ll learn or how many adventures we’ll see of Sally, but I like the direction they’re taking by introducing Sally as a larger presence. Let’s just hope she’s more Meadow Soprano than she is AJ Soprano.

Thoughts on this week’s Mad Men?

Josh is a multi-tasker. He's been a cubicle monkey for the last few years, a veteran stage actor of over 10 years, a sometimes commercial actor, occasional writer of articles, a once-legend in the realm of podcastery, purveyor of chuckles in his homecity of Chicago as he has trained with the world renown iO (Improv Olympic) and Second City Conservatory and performed with both theaters, and can be seen doing a thing that actor's do on the website of his online sitcom, LackingDirection.com. Josh also likes to tackle the beef of his bio with one run-on sentence, because it befits his train-of-thought.

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